Can You Have Relaxed AND Healthy Hair?

One of the more popular trends within the African American community is to be natural, meaning discontinuing the use of chemicals that alter the hair's natural texture.  Although this is a great way to maintain a healthy hair lifestyle it does take a lot of work (I've tried, and epic-ally failed).  And there is also the notion, more so a myth that unless you rock your natural hair and resort to chemically processing your hair, then your hair isn't as healthy as it should be, or not healthy at this true?  Well I am here to say absolutely not and I will explain why.

First and foremost there are pros and cons to being relaxed AND natural, but I believe a lot of the myth, more so fears came after a popular movie among our community, Good Hair by Chris Rock.  This movie explored every dynamic of "black hair" from weaves to beauty school, hair shows to the perceived thought on why African American women even decided to straighten or color their hair in the first place.  And finally, the in depth look on the process of "relaxing" one's hair by examining the chemicals that are used and seeing firsthand the process.  I will admit, this did scare me too after hearing some testimonies on how some women are "addicted" to it, and some women even experienced the breakage of hair and acquiring scabs on their scalp from getting too many relaxers, but that's the key phrase, TOO MANY RELAXERS.  Getting a relaxer can be a great thing, especially if you have hair that is very hard to manage in its natural state and you just don't want to put in the effort to maintain it yourself, you just have to make sure you do it in moderation, and here are the steps on how:

Get a PROFESSIONAL to apply your relaxer!
I can't tell you how many times my hair has been so f’ed up because I was so eager to get my hair  relaxed, so I let my mom, or my cousin, or a friend do it to avoid the cost.  Even though they may think they know what they are doing, unless they are a licensed hair stylist, they are probably missing key elements that could help your hair.  If you have to pay a little extra for someone who is really good, and takes care of your hair the way they should then it is worth the investment.

Relax your hair in moderation!
You don't need to relax your hair every time you see the first sign of "new gro" on your head.  That's too many chemicals within a short period of time which causes breakage, the stripping of your hair's natural oils, and not to mention the risk of acquiring lesions and scabs on your scalp, that sh*t hurts!  I suggest a time frame anywhere from 4-12 months in between each relaxer, it gives your hair time to breathe, regain those oils, and a chance to grow!

Find protective hairstyles
If you get a few protective hairstyles that are easy for you to maintain, you can easily go without a relaxer for up to a year!  For me I have a routine where I rod my hair with cold rods, and then I end up doing a few sew ins and then I save my braids for last.  Once I leave my braids up for 4-6 months and take them out it's been close to 11 months since I had my last relaxer.  By doing that, you make sure you have trained your hair to be able to take the chemicals in the relaxer properly so you can see all of the benefits with the finish product.  Also make sure in between each protective style (depending on the length you left it up for) get a professional to trim your ends, this will ensure your hair is growing the way it should.

Reduce the heat
Going along with protective styles, it is important not to apply too much heat as that can cause breakage.  While you are rocking your nice relaxed hair do, make sure to wrap your hair and hold it with a silk scarf.  This type of scarf won't cause your hair to dry out.  I also suggest getting a silk pillow case because if you're like me, you sleep wild and that scarf is on the floor by the time you wake up.  By taking these simple steps you reduce your need to use heat.  If you need to use heat, get a bottle of heat protectant, which you can pick up at Walmart or Walgreens, and apply to your hair before exposing it to the heat.

Wash Your Hair!
Now I know after you got your hair all nice and slicked back, you don't want to do anything to mess it up, but at the same time we have to make sure our hair is clean.  It is recommended that you wash your hair once a week and use moisturizing shampoo.  This is especially important for anyone who is relaxed.  Any "sulfate" free shampoos are more geared towards are natural friends, and from experience it leaves your hair hard, dry, and brittle which can lead to breakage.  Because of the relaxer, we have less of our natural oils than someone who rocks their hair natural, so they have the luxury of benefiting from a sulfate free shampoo.

Deep conditioning is your best friend!
Deep conditioning is the best thing you can do to your hair, especially when you are relaxed.  It simply promotes healthy hair by retaining the oils and restoring the moisture to your hair.  I suggest an overnight deep conditioning about once a month, depending on your hair type. When you deep condition you can add in oils such as olive oil or coconut oil since these are natural oils that have great benefits, and smell good too.  Wash your hair, section your hair off, apply a generous amount of conditioner, de-tangle, and let sit either overnight, or on a day where you can lounge around.  Then rinse in cool water and you will have the most soft and silky hair ever! 

What if I want to add color?
If you want to add color I suggest this.  Start with a base color like a black or brown permanent and then apply a semi-permanent (rinse) on top.  The reason I say this is because adding color to your hair is just like adding an relaxer, it is a chemical and done excessively it can damage your hair.  And with coloring, it sometimes can be irreversible.  By using a base color and adding a rinse, you can change your color when you want because the rinse is not permanent.  For example, I will be dying my hair back to all back, and then adding a semi-rinse of navy blue streaks.  This way I can still have my black but a pop of color that won't damage my hair.

Vitamins + Water = Healthy and Happy Hair
This is a tip anyone can use whether relaxed or natural.  Vitamins not only promote your body health, but can be very beneficial to your hair as well.  Biotin, which helps grow your hair and fingernails is something I suggest taking on a daily basis, along with your other daily vitamins recommended by your doctor.  Another great thing to do is to make sure to keep your body hydrated with water.  When you drink the recommended amount of water it helps your body keep in the proteins and nutrients it needs in order to do what it needs to do, which means grow your hair.  I suggest getting the ever so famous VOSS Bottle, it's about $2.50 at select retailers but it's worth the price.  A glass bottle you can re-use, and if you drink 2 and a half of those bottles, you would have drank the amount of water you need in a day, and it's a great bottle for detoxing!

Whether you choose to be natural or relaxed is up to you!  Please do not give into the trends if you're heart, time, and money isn't into it, you're just putting your hair through a crazy side chick type relationship.  If you decide to go relaxed, or stay relaxed, I hope these tips will help you achieve a healthier hair lifestyle while doing so!

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